Scene 1: The Gomi Emporium
The short mission briefing concluded, the spokeswoman for the clients, a slim brunette using the nickname Ragdoll, brings the lights back up and leans back against the long rack of electronics below the briefing holo-screen.
There’s a moments hesitation then everyone speaks at once. Ragdoll seems unperturbed, plucking each question effortlessly out of the air as if only that person had spoken.
A man in the shadows at the back of the room steps forwards, dark shades covering his eyes and a black trenchcoat covering his body. He has brown hair and looks somewhere between thirty and fifty, but is otherwise mostly nondescript. When he speaks, his voice is soft but direct. “What’s the teams makeup, and what resources are available for our use?”
A shaven headed man in a long black coat intones with a low baritone, “What’s the teams makeup, and what resources are available for our use? And what severity of resistance are we to expect?”
A man looking to be in his late 30’s with short brown hair and a goatee speaks up. “This is interesting. Is this it, our entire team is in this room? I hope everyone is up to it. I can handle the security details.”
A slender, beautiful Asian woman, in functional but stylish clothing that accentuates her body, asks, in soft, accented English. “Are there options for destruction of the Ghost, if necessary?”
At the back of a group, from a slight man, comes a clear voice over the long distance of the dusty room. “I’ve got men on the streets, eyes if you will, and I myself am a purveyor of every hearts desire. Though, if possible, I would desire contract and trade to hard cash – the gift that keeps giving”
Having said his peace the man fades back into the shadows of the room.
The slim spokeswoman pushes herself up of the console edge and begins pacing distractedly as she speaks.
“All good questions. This is your team, any larger a group would be too much of a signal flare as I’m sure old hands like y’all know. We’ll back you with as much as we can – and we’re more than we appear. This job is important to the Lady and her friends. We’ve got a pretty slick netrunner on this, he doesn’t want to be running full-on assaults on a megacorp mainframe if he can avoid it but he’ll be able to get you satellite intel, sometimes in real time, public-record floorplans, that kind of thing. I’m your contact if you want any specialist equipment you can’t easily buy over the counter and the big guy over there will be running a backup extraction team if the shit hits the fan.”
She turns to speak directly to the Asian woman. “We’d rather you aborted or let someone else take the Ghost than destroy it. I cannot stress this enough. We can always try again some other time.”
To the slight man in the fancy clothes, “The deal is the deal. First rule is don’t change the deal. A side effect of that is don’t try to screw us on the deal. Bagpuss over there has augmented tracking.”
“What collateral damage is accepted for this mission?” says the man with the goatee.
The big Gomi Emporium security man, Gabriel, who has been standing by the door all this time, comes forward with an easy walk and a roll of the shoulders that speaks of physical confidence.
“You’ve all been to DreamLand or seen it on holo. Those unobtrusive guys in body armor with machine pistols are Dream Corps security. Not the best, but second tier good. They’ll be backed by state-of-the art electronic security at the research facility, where they don’t have to worry about keeping the kiddies happy. Multi-spectral cameras, biometric entryways, remote non-lethal weapons – all probably under A.I. direction. it’s a tough nut to crack.” ( Dream Corp)
“Try not to nuke the place. We’d rather the only new enemies we make out of this are Dream Corps. Pissing them off is probably unavoidable, so don’t worry about going easy on ‘em since your efforts won’t mean shit to them anyhow. Even so, the quieter the better. If we can give them an excuse to keep the whole thing quiet and deniable, like no huge body counts or big holes in buildings, then they won’t come after us too hard. That’d be good, right?”
The beautiful Asian woman turns to him, a frown on her nearly-perfect features, “Why would they come after you? Is the Emporiums interest in this item known?”
“We’re assuming if you get burned then they’ll find out the connection. Now, you’re each getting one kay up front. Ragdoll?”
Ragdoll opens a box and takes out a sheaf of pre-paid credit cards, a proprietary brand name you could get at any Wall, and walks around handing one to each of the team. She explains that this is theirs to keep, for up-front costs, and a retainer to secure their services and silence.
The man in brown leather smiles thinly as he takes his payment. “Thanks. We’ll try to keep your name out of this as best as we can. There shouldn’t be much to trace back to you. What does The Bey have to do with this? It was his contact that told me about it.”
The guy with the black lipstick and creepy eyes, until now silent and lounging on the sofa, pipes up, “I can answer that one, guy. The Emir owes the Lady a favor from way back.” (Friedlander Bey Emily Firmin)
Ragdoll swiftly explains to the assembled team that the mission is on no fixed timeline, and that the imperative is the retrieval of the Ghost and it’s valuable data – whether the original or a copy makes no difference. She smiles when asked why the Gomi Emporium is interested in the ghost of a British internal security boss.
“Our employer has friends who have a deep interest in this and whom we plan to hand the item over to. That’s all you really need to know.”
The big shaven-headed man chuckles quietly then looks at the man wearing lipstick, “Sorry. I’ve just never seen a man in lipstick.”
“You have, your momma,” comes the fast rejoinder, getting a deep snort of laughter from the big bald guy.
“I like you. I am Pitbull. You are?”
There follows a round of introductions, each one using his or her preferred nom-de-guerre rather than a name that could identify themselves too easily: Wormwood, Candyman, Able, Garrion, Snow.
Gabriel, the Gomi security chief, breaks in on the conversation, “Anyone who has an implant, I hope you’re recording”
He reels off a string of numbers, a neo-web address, “That’s the emergency drop box. If you need extraction, medical attention, specialist equipment or if the mission is either blown or a success, contact us there. Otherwise, once you leave here you don’t contact us by any means and you certainly don’t come back here.”
“Keep an eye out for other red teams. There may be others interested, including the original owners. If you see any sign of such, contact us immediately and abort the mission if you feel it’s too dicey to continue. Call us through that address if you need us. If you end up neck-deep me and a few of my water-rat pals will come get you. Promise.”
With that, the briefing ends and Gabriel unlocks the door and leads them to a freight elevator that goes down to a basement, then through a hole in the wall into a tunnel that finally gives out in a security-locked door at the bottom of stairs. Those in turn give onto the hallway of an apartment block on the other side of the road from the Emporium. He opens it and looks out for a moment, then motions everyone through.
He turns to Able, “I’ll have a van, bought through a cut-out, by tomorrow. Where do you want it?”
Able looks to the others then locks on Candyman., “Candyman’s warehouse. It’s in a suitable location, defended, but isn’t much on the major corp’s radars. He’s still small time.”
Wormwood tries to suggest a different drop-off spot but by then the haughty Candyman is already responding to garrion’s query about his warehouse’s defenses.
“The best defense is not being seen, and having a pit of snakes for when one falls into the hole beyond vision. It is well guarded, but if one word of it leaves your lips, it will be your last utterance on this plane.”
There are gasps of outrage and shock from Edgerunners un-used to being threatened so glibly.
Wormwood’s hands fly up, “Hey dude, I don’t even want to know where your pad is. You’re not my type!”
Able shrugs, his voice as flat and disinterested as ever, “If you seriously damage my body, my employer will be quite displeased.”
Candyman: looks at Able, “I can afford your body childe, in any way I please.” His gaze is glass and jagged ice but it has no effect on the unnaturally calm Able.
“If you truly wish, I can get you in contact with the purchasing department. But I wouldn’t hold out hope.”
Gabriel cuts in angrily, “When you bitches are finished seeing how high you can piss – I’ll have the van delivered tomorrow around eleven. You folks walk soft and carry a big stick, y’hear,” and with that he closes the door and is gone. leaving the team still involved in their argument. Garrion warns that All the banter is not getting them any closer to our goal., “We need to get some eyes on what security measures are in place and gather some intel on the target’s location.” Snow gets between Candyman and Able.
“Whoa…calm down boys. Way too much testosterone flying around, even for me. And trust me, I’ve seen a lot.”
Her silvery voice seems to settle everyone down a bit and Garrion speaks for everyone as he says, “Show us the way Candyman. We can gather our thoughts once secure in your hideout.” But the apparent consensus is immediately broken again as Candyman says, “:But of course you all are in a rush” Several young men and even children drift in from the shadows, “The children will see you to my home, and do please keep the sacks on your heads. I’ve my own ride a few streets distant and will catch up with you.”
As Pitbull and Able argue briefly about the wisdom of such a suggestion, Wormwood takes matters a step further. “Whoa! I’m not puttin’ a bag on my head for some one-percenter I just met! Trust me with the address or meet me at the Seasons to talk. It’s got hush fields too, y’know!” He stalks off down the street.
“As much as I would like to get underway, I have to agree with Wormwood and Pitbull”, says Garrion. “We really don’t know each other very well and I can respect your need for privacy but you must understand our mistrust also. Bagging us is no way to inspire confidence.”
Wormwood, some fifty feet away, stops in his tracks and calls out to Garrion, “Smart guy. I’m glad you’re not my type.” He begins to walk back over towards the rest, then pauses tracks and examines one teen girl from Candyman’s entourage for all of ten seconds. He blinks and keeps walking back. “Hey, I suggested the Seasons. It’s fairly neutral – it’s the Emir’s place – has good security and we can get to know each other some there. Psst. Mr. C,” he points, underarm, “What’s her name?”
Whether it’s Wormwood’s creepy attitude towards the girl, his offer to let Candyman call The Emir and explain to the crime boss of Northside that he doesn’t trust his club’s security or Snow’s interjection that no-one puts a bag over her head without paying well for the privilege, the team decide to go to the Dangerous Seasons and then split up to meet soon at the club.
Scene 2: The Dangerous Seasons
There’s a pulse-pounding beat of techno-chrome music coming from the surround-sound as the team enter the club and check their weapons at the check desk. The bouncer, a big guy with obvious muscle grafts waves each through without their paying the cover charge and a waitress shows them through the main room to stairs leading upward, hand signaling ‘second left’. Three naked and beautiful women – one with leopard fur and a tail, gyrate around poles amid holo-displays and strobe lights. Those with radio neural links get annoying subliminals telling them to buy a drink and a lap dance.
Each team member reacts slightly differently to the club’s ambience. Snow seems perfectly at home while Candyman seems adrift in a world he doesn’t quite fit. Garrion glances over at the bar for a moment as a thought enters his mind… then realizes he has work to do. He checks over the details of the club, exits, cover points, choke points, and so forth. If this is going to be his base of operations he had better get to know it well. He records all this information on his computer implant. Pitbull sizes up everyone he sees on his procession. Strippers. Bartenders. Barmaids. Bouncers. All bodies, and potential threats. His days as a soldier may be gone, but the habits and impulses of a soldier may never go. As Able enters the club, he frowns for a moment, then instructs his implant computer’s Firewall software to block datastreams from the subliminal messaging system. He gives a glance around the room as they walk through, but it looks more like he’s searching for threats – he barely glances at the dancers, but looks carefully at the bouncers.
Going up the stairs each passes a buffer field that cuts the noise in half, then as they enter the indicated room there’s a full hush field in place that ripples static across your skin. Wormwood is sitting talking to a brown-haired young woman in a cleaner’s overall, his face open and friendly. When she sees the new arrivals she smiles at him, rises and leaves. Immediately, Wormwood’s face shuts back down to the eerie not-quite-calm they’ve previously seen.
“Hey guys, glad you’re here.” In response to Candyman’s terse query: “Yep, secure as it gets. The cops wouldn’t dare and the room is hush field safe, no cameras.”
Pitbull asks if one of the bouncers used to be a soldier and Wormwood answers that he wouldn’t be surprised since one of the managers fought with the Texan military in Mexico. Pitbull’s eyes narrow at this but he makes no further comment as the team get down to business – opening with Candyman making an interesting offer.
“The item were after is worth a quarter million as hardware alone, the software on this thing, a fortune. We have our leads, would any of you be willing to let me overbid your contract? I’ll pay $20,000 for a job well done, Ghost in hand, apiece mind.”
The reaction is immediate and negative.
Garrion is first to offer an objection, “I don’t think money is the issue here C-man. You can’t do much with it when you are dead for double crossing them. If we play this right, DreamCorp will never know what hit them. The others know exactly who we are. The Bey also. He has some stake in this and he won’t appreciate a double cross either. Even if it doesn’t affect him directly his reputation would be marred. So let’s forget all this nonsense about making ourselves rich and very dead. Back to the point of the matter. How do we get it?”
Able only comments that he’d have to run any such double-cross past his employer, while Snow states flatly that she stays bought once paid for.
Wormwood looks at Candyman, openly amazed by his words, ""What the ex-cop, said Mr. C. You’ve got to know lady Emily isn’t the woman to screw over. Gabe’s an ex-SEAL, is the word on the street. And that cat, man. Plus and also, did I mention earlier that I’m on this team because the Emir told me I had to do him a favor to repay one he owes Her ladyship? I’m an artist, but not a suicidal one."
“The Bey,” muses Candyman, “if it were just a double-cross we could include him and cut everyone else out. Give him his cut and be done with it, but he is one of principle.”
Wormwood leans forward, “Mr. C., for a biz man you’re being slow, you don’t mind me saying. We’re about to break into a secure facility doing all kinds of hi-tech research in hi-dollar media products. I figure the lootage is where the real money is at, am I right? Tell you, I heard of a ‘runner who took the Action Network’s newest pilot right outa its servers, slick. He sold it to another corp who reshot the same plot with their own people and released their version 2 weeks before the original was due out. He made a couple hundred k on the deal. There might be stuff like that there.”
The issue of a possible double-cross seemingly decided, Snow pulls the discussion back to more practical matters.
“I remember seeing a holo-vid about Deitner’s apartments and it mentioned Whirlwind Security on site… But even though he’s got Whirlwind, I think he is the softest target out of the three.” (Albert “AJ” Deitner Whirlwind Security)
Both Able and wormwood suggest they could use their talents to infiltrate Deitner’s apartment block, or the Dream Corp facility itself, to get additional intelligence that could be useful. Wormwood offers to look for publicly available site plans and the like on the City Hall and Dream Corp net-homes. however, it’s Candyman who is first to come up with something more pro-active.
“I’ve friends in Deitner’s social circles, I may be able to arrange a meeting. No connection to me, but perhaps I could get Snow in position, as long as your relationship to me remains unknown.”
“We have no relationship, handsome,” Snow retorts, winking coyly.
“Either way, bugging his home will be easiest if he is not present and we know his schedule.”
The rest agree to this beginning of a plan, which would aim to get Snow into Deitner’s apartment, bypassing security by hanging off the playboy geek’s arm. They fall to hashing out the details and Candyman again takes the lead.
“I could set up the meeting with him, a dinner to offer my services to the corp, Snow could be my date. One who is far more interested in our mark than myself, and when I excuse myself, she plays with her string.”
Able looks to Snow., “While you have him, try and determine if Deitner has a neural interface implant and what type. I could make use of it if he has a full immersive interface.”
The plan takes quick shape. Garrion will do some sleuthing on the street, seeing if he can track down any corruptible individuals inside the Talking Rock Tower condo block or at Dream Corp then provide back-up as part of an extraction team alongside Pitbull if something goes wrong for either Snow or Able on the night. Pitbull is tasked with constructing smoke bombs and other possible diversionary measures as well as leading any extraction needed. Able and Snow will be the ones to actually penetrate Deitner’s home and see what can be gleaned from both man and place. Candyman’s role is to introduce Snow to the target and then act the jilted boyfriend and get out of the way and offer a support role as quartermaster using his considerable wealth and contacts. Wormwood will work on bugging the public areas at Dream Corp for future use and see what site or floor plans he can dig up. he’s going to be deeply immersed in staying undetected while doing so and will be otherwise unavailable for the first phase of the plan.
Able nods and looks to the others, “We should start setting this plan in motion.”
Candyman slides eyes up Snows figure, “I’ll have fun with this, I’ll let you know when the date is set. Have a nice night everyone, a pity about earlier though.” He heads down the stairs and into the throng, sticking out the whole way.